Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Gossamer Gear The One
$300, 1 lb. 6 oz.
When the wind blew strong gusts on some nights during a six-day, north-south traverse of more than 90 miles on the Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park in September, I wondered out of self-interest how well Gossamer Gear’s The One would stand up to them—given its tall profile, lightweight materials, and design that utilizes trekking poles for pitching. As it turned out, I had no reason to worry. The One not only held up well, it demonstrated why it is quite possibly the best solo ultralight tent on the market today.
A single-wall, non-freestanding, A-frame tent that pitches using two adjustable trekking poles set to 125cm (or custom aluminum poles sold separately for $38), with an interior tent featuring mesh bug netting and a bathtub floor, The One tent takes several minutes to pitch, even once you’ve gotten the hang of it. Setup involves staking the four corners, followed by inserting trekking poles and staking the vestibule and rear guyline. It also requires a minimum of six stakes, or 10 if you want to secure the bathtub floor (rather than just having it hang in place, which works well enough)—and just pounding them in can take time when the ground is hard-packed dirt or rocky, as we encountered in designated campsites in Glacier.
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But when pitched properly, the stability with two trekking poles is as good as many freestanding, three-season tents, in part because its tall walls are angled to deflect wind. Nonetheless, Gossamer Gear recommends pitching the tent with one of the ends pointing into the wind, rather than the large front or back sides, and ideally finding a sheltered campsite. In Glacier, our campsites were in forest every night but one, when our tents sat at the edge of a meadow, and The One withstood direct gusts of 20-30 mph that night without a problem. While we had no rain in Glacier, The One’s entrance has a drip line that keeps rain out of the tent interior when coming and going.
The front side features a tall, wide, zippered door on the mesh interior tent and a vestibule that sheltered my 58-liter ultralight pack and a pair of boots on one side, so that I easily entered and exited without having to climb over that stored gear. The two vestibule flaps can be individually rolled up on clear nights to give you lots of fresh air (plus maximum ventilation to prevent condensation) and a partial view of the stars. With both vestibule flaps rolled back, The One’s front side becomes a tall, flat, vertical wall, so you might not furl both flaps up if the wind is hitting that side of the tent.
With no door on the back side (it being a solo tent), the SilNylon wall has a beaked awning (see lead photo at top of story) that overhangs a triangle of mesh on the upper part of the wall, providing cross-ventilation and high-low ventilation created by floor-level mesh at the tent ends. This ventilation significantly minimizes condensation, a problem that plagues some single-wall tents. While I would expect some condensation on calm, cold nights with the vestibule completely closed up—and Gossamer Gear acknowledges that possibility on its website—my group (taking turns using it) saw no moisture accumulate inside the tent, even on a calm night in the high 30s.
The interior living space is excellent and the headroom may be unmatched among one-person backcountry tents, especially ultralight models. The floor covers 19.6 square feet, with 36 inches of width at the head end and 24 inches at the foot, plus 88 inches of length; the middle of the tent has four or five inches of space on each side of a standard, 20-inch-wide air mattress. The peak height reaches a cavernous 46 inches in the center of the tent (where you would sit upright). I’m five feet, eight inches, and I easily fit extra clothes and gear inside.
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The One’s 1200mm, PU-coated SilNylon fabric is ultralight—7-denier in the body and 10-denier in the bathtub floor—meaning that to ensure a longer life for the tent, you should use a ground cloth, which obviously adds weight. The tent comes with taped seams, 14 stakes, and guylines rigged.
At a mere 22 ounces (without the optional tent poles when using trekking poles to pitch it) and packing down to 6×9 inches in its stuff sack, The One ranks among the very lightest and most-compact backcountry shelters on the market—and may be unmatched for living space, which explains its popularity among dedicated ultralighters. Although you should choose fairly protected campsites for it, that’s not difficult on many U.S. long trails or public lands. And 300 bucks is a good price for a high-quality ultralight tent.
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See also my “5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent” and “How to Choose the Best Ultralight Tent for You.” (Both of those stories require a paid subscription to The Big Outside to read, which costs as little as five bucks, or just pennies over $4 per month for an entire year.)
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.